Mississippi attorneys criticize Madison legal professional over feedback

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Mississippi attorneys criticize Madison attorney over comments

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A silent protest was held outside Petal, Mississippi, Mayor Hal Marx’s house in response to his comments regarding the killing of George Floyd.

Mississippi Clarion Ledger

A group of diverse attorneys in central Mississippi has sent a letter to Madison County prosecuting attorney Pamela Hancock criticizing her for a social media post after the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, a Black man, by then-Minneapolis police officers.

In early June, Pamela “Pammi” Hancock said in a now deleted Facebook reply that she can only hope the deadly strain of COVID-19 spreads in riots. She later said she was only joking and didn’t mean she wanted anyone to die.

Hancock’s post drew ire on social media. One commenter, Monique Harrison Henderson, said “this woman makes decisions about which black people to prosecute. Her words matter. People shouldn’t wish death on anyone. But we aren’t talking about other instances here. We are talking about this.”

Petal protest: Calls for Petal mayor to resign over social media post.

Now a group of 35 attorneys, including former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Constance Slaughter Harvey, Neely Carlton Lyons and Walter Boone, have signed an open letter released Monday expressing concern over Hancock’s post.

“We all believe her comments were wrong,” Boone said.

Boone said the broad-based group of attorneys hope Hancock will look at her own comments and conduct a deep dive into her office to ensure all people all treated fairly. He said it is important to talk about issues, not sweep them under the rug or not comment.

Hancock said Monday she will have a formal response to the letter by Thursday.

The letter said: “To date, more than 35,000 Mississippians have been stricken with the deadly, incurable coronavirus disease and, sadly, families across the state are mourning the untimely deaths of more than 1,200 loved ones. Neither the coronavirus nor the death of George Floyd and resulting protests and riots is a joking matter.”

The attorneys said even if Hancock’s comments were intended as a “poorly” executed joke, they had racial undertones and potential bias which they find unacceptable, especially in a public official.

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“We all make mistakes and say things we wish we never would have said, words matter,” the letter said. “The words of our public officials, especially our prosecutors, matter more. Our prosecutors, more than anyone in our criminal justice system, must speak and act impartially towards all of us, as required by our state and federal Constitutions.”

Madison County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Hancock. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis, AP)

The attorneys said there must be no hint of a prosecutor carrying any racial animus or bias in their work, and that is why Hancock’s social media post was so damaging to her professional credibility and the criminal justice system. 

The attorneys said that more than 40,000 citizens of color reside in Madison County. and some people of color will come before Justice Court or County Court where Hancock prosecutes cases.

“In this moment of national introspection into systemic racism in our country, we expect you to undertake a similar look at your comments and your special role in our criminal justice system,” the attorneys said. “You have the unique opportunity to rise above your ‘poorly’ executed joke and make a positive difference for all the people of Madison County. We hope you will decide to do so.”    

This story may update.             

Contact Jimmie E. Gates at 601-961-7212 or [email protected] Follow @jgatesnews on Twitter.

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